Thursday, November 1, 2012

#KivaTrip: Discovering the 'Kiva Effect' in rural India

We pick up where we left off with Kiva staffers Chelsa, Laura and Rachael, who are currently visiting Field Partner People's Forum in Odisha, India.

After visiting two branches and three very remote locations where People’s Forum borrowers live, it’s safe to say we’re exhausted and a bit overwhelmed by our experiences so far -- but mostly we're inspired.

Rachael taking a photo of borrowers in rural Odisha.

It all began by driving nearly two hours from Bhubaneswar to Puri, a warm and bustling coastal town in the state of Odisha. The traffic, potholes and fearless driving turned out to be a tiring combination. We have so much appreciation for the field credit officers who travel day in and day out by bus or motorbike -- often for much longer distances!

People’s Forum's employees are super passionate about what they do. Over tea and cookies we learned that branch managers and staff move between branches every six months to help prevent corruption and ensure that all clients get the attention and service they deserve. We’ve been continually impressed by the operation they run, and how clearly they're focused their mission on supporting the rural poor in Odisha.

Our biggest surprise of the day was seeing that Kiva is well known and loved throughout the remote villages around Bhubaneswar. With Kiva's partnership, People’s Forum is excited that they can offer riskier loans to borrowers they weren't able to reach without Kiva funding -- loans for people with disabilities, families affected by leprosy, widows, single mothers and the extremely poor. Each borrower we meet is so proud and grateful for their loan. They are overcoming challenges, and with Kiva, their lives are just a little bit easier. To our surprise, many even have Kiva signs hanging above their storefronts.

The primary focus of our trip is to gather video and photos to share with the Kiva community. We've been amazed by how willing every borrower is to share their story with us -- including one of our favorites today, Kahanu, who weaves beautiful baskets out of bamboo.

Kahanu and his wife making a living weaving baskets.

His loan through Kiva is his first loan ever, and he used it to buy bamboo in bulk. This will allow him and his wife to make more baskets to sell. We found ourselves smiling and giggling throughout the interview as his enthusiasm was contagious, and his hands were the strongest we’d ever shaken.

The fun we had has left us ready to rest and experience new stories and places tomorrow.

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